Every crow in the Seven Kingdoms should pay homage to you, Father. From Castamere to the Blackwater, you fed them well. (AFFC, Jaime I)
Administrative Note: I’ve recently purchased some audio recording equipment and have been experimenting with podcasting. If you all are interested, I’d be happy to record the entirety of this Tywin series and post it on my blog. I know many people would prefer not to read a giant block of text. Would anyone prefer to listen to me and my definitely-not-made-for-radio voice read the Tywin series? If so, let me know in the comments below or on Reddit. Thanks for reading!
The Family Dynamic
Before we go on with the story and analysis, I’m going to need to take a step back to look at Tywin’s relationship to his children so that we can better understand what happens next in the story. I also realize that this is not a command analysis, but the family dynamic is important to understand Tywin Lannister and what he was fighting for.
The Lannister family and name were all-important to Tywin Lannister in principle. In actuality, things were different. As previously discussed, Tywin valued the Lannister name and his family above everything else. He brought down the Houses of Reyne and Tarbeck to re-establish Lannister prominence in the Westerlands and ensure that the Lannister name would inspire fear among his father’s leal lords. He betrayed Aerys II Targaryen to bolster Lannister status when it was clear that the Targaryen regime wouldn’t survive Robert’s Rebellion. Tywin went to war against the Riverlands and the North to ensure the survival of the Lannister hold on the Iron Throne. But when the gaze is shifted from a bird’s eye view of the value Tywin placed on the Lannister family to his relationship with the individual members of his immediate family, a significant paradox emerges.
This paradox is best seen in Tywin’s individual relationship with his children. Each of his children was disappointing to him for failing to live up to the expectations that he placed on them. Cersei Lannister was looked at merely as a tool to extend Lannister influence via marriage to powerful lords or their heirs. Tywin looked to first marry his daughter to Viserys or Rhaegar Targaryen and then later Robert Baratheon when the political winds shifted. Cersei chafed under this paradigm, but to Tywin, Cersei had no agency of her own. She was to be obedient and dutiful and marry whomever would bring more power to the Lannisters.
“You are my daughter, and will do as I command.” (ASOS, Tyrion III)
Tywin’s relationship with Jaime Lannister was similarly fraught with paradoxes. Jaime initially was the heir to Casterly Rock and the son that Tywin favored. Tywin had ambitions to marry Jaime to Lysa Tully in possibly an attempt to hitch his house to the Southron Ambitions of the Starks, Tullys and Arryns.
But when he made a brief call at King’s Landing on his way back to Casterly Rock, chiefly to see his sister, Cersei took him aside and whispered that Lord Tywin meant to marry him to Lysa Tully, had gone so far as to invite Lord Hoster to the city to discuss dower. (ASOS, Jaime II)
However, Jaime had something else in his life that held his attention: his sister, Cersei. After being told of this attempted betrothal, Cersei planted an idea in Jaime’s head that would keep the two twins together: the Kingsguard.
But if Jaime took the white, he could be near her always. (ASOS, Jaime II)
The Kingsguard was an elite force of knights who guarded the king and his immediate family. But they did not marry and did not hold lands or titles. And while Cersei’s idea did indeed influence the boy, there were political considerations at work as well.
Aerys had chosen him to spite his father, to rob Lord Tywin of his heir. (ASOS, Jaime VI)
More than spiting Tywin, Aerys’s action was intended to keep Tywin loyal to Aerys. To summarize a long story, Jaime remained on the Kingsguard even after he killed Aerys during the Sack of King’s Landing. The relationship seemed to mend when Jaime joined in Tywin’s Riverlands Campaign. After his capture, both Tywin and Tyrion worked to secure Jaime’s release by any means necessary. When Jaime was returned to Tywin in A Storm of Swords, Tywin wished him to shrug off his white cloak and to re-accept the mantle of heir of Casterly Rock. But complications arose.
Tywin despised his youngest child: Tyrion Lannister.
“You are an ill-made, devious, disobedient, spiteful little creature full of envy, lust, and low cunning. Men’s laws give you the right to bear my name and display my colors, since I cannot prove that you are not mine. To teach me humility, the gods have condemned me to watch you waddle about wearing that proud lion that was my father’s sigil and his father’s before him.” (ASOS, Tyrion I)
Tyrion Lannister was the dwarf son of Tywin Lannister. His birth had caused the death of Tywin’s wife, Joanna. More than anything, this probably caused Tywin’s personal hatred of Tyrion. But Tyrion was still a Lannister. He might have been the least of the Lannisters, but he bore the name. Thus, when Tyrion married a crofter’s daughter at the age of 13, it was an affront to Lannister honor. What Tywin did when he found out is indicative of the value Tywin placed on the family name and the evil Tywin was capable of.
“After Jaime had made his confession, to drive home the lesson, Lord Tywin brought my wife in and gave her to his guards. They paid her fair enough. A silver for each man, how many whores command that high a price? He sat me down in the corner of the barracks and bade me watch, and at the end she had so many silvers the coins were slipping through her fingers and rolling on the floor, she . . . ” The smoke was stinging his eyes. Tyrion cleared his throat and turned away from the fire, to gaze out into darkness. “Lord Tywin had me go last,” he said in a quiet voice. “And he gave me a gold coin to pay her, because I was a Lannister, and worth more.” (AGOT, Tyrion VI)
But the other side of the emphasis Tywin placed on the Lannister name was that he was willing to go to war to free his hated son when he was captured by Catelyn Stark as seen in part 2.
“The honor of our House was at stake. I had no choice but to ride. No man sheds Lannister blood with impunity.” (AGOT, Tyrion VII)
After Tyrion was returned to him, Tywin looked for a candidate to marry his son to. The candidate turned out to be none-other than Eddard Stark’s captive daughter: Sansa Stark. While Tywin despised Tyrion, a marriage to Sansa Stark would uphold Tywin’s desire to marry his children off to strengthen his power base in Westeros. And so, Tywin forced Tyrion to marry Sansa Stark, sister of Robb Stark, so as to give his son a marriage to someone of high birth as well as secure his power in the North.
“Our alliances in the south may be as solid as Casterly Rock, but there remains the north to win, and the key to the north is Sansa Stark.” (ASOS, Tyrion III)
Now this very long section on Tywin’s relationship to his children is important, because of the value Tywin places on family. The paradox is that Tywin didn’t really care about his individual children. They were tools for him to use to further his own power. He cared only for their Lannister surname. Now, this will play a large role in events to come, but I believe that Tywin’s emphasis on family comes both from his own upbringing where he saw House Lannister laid low and the fact that he didn’t care about the individual agency, wants or desires of his children. He only cared about the name.
In this way, I believe that Tywin was motivated not out of a sense of duty to his family and what best helped them. He was motivated by what best helped Tywin and Tywin alone. This selfishness would have consequences.
Maintaining Alliances Through Trial and Marriage
“The Tyrells are now insisting that Margaery be wed to Tommen, but if I were to offer you instead—” (ASOS, Jaime VII)
“You are not my son.” Lord Tywin turned his face away. “You say you are the Lord Commander of the Kingsguard, and only that. Very well, ser. Go do your duty.” (ASOS, Jaime VII)
With Cersei, he initially wanted to marry her to Willas Tyrell, heir to Highgarden. Willas was a cripple, having been injured by Oberyn Martell in a joust that occurred years previously, was not Cersei’s first choice for a husband. In fact, no one was. She was content to remain unmarried. Tywin though was aware of the rumors swirling around Jaime and Cersei’s relationship and wanted to put the rumors to bed through Cersei’s…. bedding of a new husband and the production of children.
“So long as you remain unwed, you allow Stannis to spread his disgusting slander,” Lord Tywin told his daughter. “You must have a new husband in your bed, to father children on you.” (ASOS, Tyrion III)
But more than putting rumors aside, it’s clear that Tywin’s desires for Cersei’s marriage were motivated more by shorting up the Tyrell alliance than anything else.
“But our alliance with Highgarden was the sword that broke Stannis. It should be tempered and made stronger.” (ASOS, Tyrion III)
“I mean to find a new husband for Cersei. Oberyn Martell perhaps, once I convince Lord Tyrell that the match does not threaten Highgarden.” (ASOS, Jaime VIII)
“The queen has even hinted at marriage. Her Grace needs another husband, and who better than a prince of Dorne? Ellaria believes I should accept. Just the thought of Cersei in our bed makes her wet, the randy wench. And we should not even need to pay the dwarf’s penny. All your sister requires from me is one head, somewhat overlarge and missing a nose.” (ASOS, Tyrion IX)
But since Jaime and Cersei were being uncooperative to Tywin’s plans, there remained Tommen. Tommen was the youngest son of Cersei and now King of Westeros. Though only a boy, the Tyrells sought to have Tommen marry Joffrey’s widow, Margaery. To the Tyrells, the disparate ages of the two were of no concern. To Cersei Lannister, this was an outrage.
“He is a boy! A frightened little boy who saw his brother murdered at his own wedding. And now they are telling him that he must marry. The girl is twice his age and twice a widow!” (ASOS, Jaime IX)
Did you think I would go meekly, Father? he asked the shadow his candles etched upon the wall. I have too much of you in me for that. (ASOS, Tyrion X)
“The Fat Flower of Highgarden is quite convinced of your guilt, and determined to see you die. His precious Margaery was drinking from that chalice too, as he has reminded us half a hundred times.” (ASOS, Tyrion X)
“If you were to admit your guilt before the throne and repent of your crime, your father would withhold the sword. You would be permitted to take the black.” (ASOS, Tyrion IX)
“Let the issue be decided on the morrow,” he declared in iron tones. “I wash my hands of it.” He gave his dwarf son a cold angry look, then strode from the hall, out the king’s door behind the Iron Throne, his brother Kevan at his side. (ASOS, Tyrion X)
Plots within Plots
It’s fitting in Martin’s narrative prose that Tywin’s arc ended right as chaos re-emerged in Westeros. From what we know of his last actions as Hand, Tywin was attempting to keep Westeros from falling back into war. First, he was trying to maintain Dornish neutrality. Gregor Clegane was near death, and Tywin was desperate to keep Gregor alive so that Tywin could… have him killed.
“Undoubtedly. I swore as much in the letter I sent to Prince Doran with his brother’s body. But it must be seen to be the sword of the King’s Justice that slays him, not a poisoned spear. Heal him.” (ASOS, Jaime IX)
Secondly, Tywin was making good on his promise to Roose Bolton. If you’ll recall, Tywin named Roose Bolton Warden of the North. To legitimize Roose’s wardenship of the North, Tywin needed a Stark. Tywin’s initial plan had been duplicitous. While he made promises to Roose Bolton that he would be Warden of the North, his true aim was to have Roose subdue the North and then swoop in and replace him with the son of Tyrion Lannister and Sansa Stark after the North had been bled of anti-Lannister sentiment.
“Lord Bolton will wed the girl to his bastard son. We shall allow the Dreadfort to fight the ironborn for a few years, and see if he can bring Stark’s other bannermen to heel. Come spring, all of them should be at the end of their strength and ready to bend the knee. The north will go to your son by Sansa Stark.” (ASOS, Tyrion VI)
To make this empty gesture more plausible, Tywin was willing to wed Roose Bolton’s bastard son, Ramsay, with Arya Stark. Having recently been found, marrying Arya Stark to Ramsay would legitimize Roose Bolton’s hold on the North until it would be convenient to replace him. I’ll talk more about this in the What If? section. Even though Tywin’s plan was thwarted by Joffrey’s death and Tyrion’s death sentence, he still followed through with the first part of his plan and dispatched Arya Stark to the North to marry Ramsay Snow.
An Ironic End
“You . . . you are no . . . no son of mine.” (ASOS, Tyrion XI)
But all of these schemes, plots and plans were nothing if the man himself was no longer around. Tywin was powerful, strong and iron-willed, but he lacked immortality. Though Tywin had survived numerous battles (mostly by staying away from all immediate danger), he was about to meet an ironic end.
Tyrion was freed from his captivity by Varys at the behest of Jaime Lannister. As Tyrion prepared to leave, Jaime revealed a startling truth to Tyrion: Tysha, the girl he married, was not a prostitute. Jaime was compelled by Tywin to lie to to Tyrion. Tyrion, in a fit of rage, then crept into Tywin’s quarters through a tunnel to confront his father where in, an ironic twist of fate, he murdered his father while Tywin sat on the privy.
Most people see the irony in Tywin “not shitting gold” at the end, but I think the irony is much deeper than that. Tywin’s entire purpose was to maintain the Lannister name. All of his actions were ostensibly to preserve Lannister honor. He destroyed Houses Reyne and Tarbeck to spread fear of the Lannister name in the Westerlands. He sacked King’s Landing to ensure this fear was felt across Westeros. He invaded the Riverlands, because no one sheds Lannister blood with impunity. He saved King’s Landing to save his children and grandchildren from probable death at the hands of Stannis Baratheon. He orchestrated the Red Wedding to quash any thought of rebellion. He joined his house to the Tyrells to make the alliance permanent. All of this was done to further the Lannister name and honor. (Though I argued above that all of his actions were done to further Tywin and Tywin alone.)
Hence, the irony comes in that Tywin’s own son, his own blood, did him in. All that he did for House Lannister came crashing down due to a Lannister. And more than any Lannister, it was the Lannister who most resembled Tywin.
“Tyrion is Tywin’s son, not you.” (AFFC, Jaime V)
Tywin’s death resonated throughout Westeros. His influence had been immense, and the shoes he left were unable to be filled by any one man or woman.
Though Tywin was dead, Westeros’s problems remained. Those left behind had to pick up the pieces and attempt to keep the various kingdoms of Westeros from slipping out of Lannister orbit. This would prove challenging to those who picked up Tywin’s mantle. But what if Tywin wasn’t murdered by Tyrion? How would he deal with the problems of Westeros? What would his plan be with say, the Siege of Riverrun? I’m going to briefly examine a few of the plots from A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons and speculate on Tywin’s course of action to them.
1. The Second Siege of Riverrun/Mopping Up Resistance in the Riverlands
Though the Red Wedding effectively ended the Northern Rebellion, there were still pockets of resistance scattered throughout the Riverlands. Before his demise, Tywin ordered that a new army muster in the Westerlands. Tywin designated Daven Lannister, son of the late Stafford Lannister, as commander of this new force. This army’s primary task was to take Riverrun.
Riverrun was held by Brynden Tully, the Blackfish. A veteran soldier and commander, Brynden was loyal to the lost cause of his nephew, Robb Stark, and was willing to die for it. Though Jaime was able to successfully negotiate the peaceful surrender of Riverrun, I do not believe that this would have been Tywin’s course of action. I think his course of action would have been the one that Jaime threatened (but never undertook):
“Your former bannermen (Riverlander soldiers) will make up the first wave of attackers, so you’ll start your day by killing the fathers and brothers of men who died for you at the Twins. The second wave will be Freys, I have no lack of those. My westermen will follow when your archers are short of arrows and your knights so weary they can hardly lift their blades.” (AFFC, Jaime VI)
While Tywin was willing to forgive certain lords of treason, Brynden Tully’s life was forfeit. He had been Robb’s chief lieutenant and military adviser. More than that, he was likely to continue fomenting rebellion and war against the Lannisters. (Side note: I believe that this will likely occur in The Winds of Winter and beyond. I think the Blackfish will join with the Brotherhood Without Banners and participate in the Red Wedding 2.0). So I believe that Tywin would have bled the Riverlands of their strength in an assault on Riverrun’s walls. And if a few Riverlander lords died in the battle, he would likely place Lannister stooges in their place.
2. The Boltons, Stannis Baratheon and the North
Tywin always considered Stannis his most implacable foe. Stannis’s military exploits were legendary and the fact that he was still alive posed the greatest danger to the Lannisters. Stannis’s journey to the Wall and rescue of the Night’s Watch never reached Tywin’s ears as far as I know (correct me if I’m wrong). But I think Tywin’s strategy in dealing with Stannis would have relied on his strategy with dealing with Lord Bolton. If you’ll recall, Tywin wanted the North bled of Stark loyalists. Roose Bolton was Tywin’s tool in accomplishing this. So, I believe that Tywin would have let Roose Bolton and Stannis Baratheon fight it out in the North. If Bolton was defeated, Stannis would be weakened and ripe for an attack by Tyrell/Lannister soldiers from the south. Moreover, Bolton’s death would be used as a rallying cry and means of garnering popular support for southron soldiers in the North.
If Bolton was victorious, then Tywin would defeat his greatest enemy without raising a sword. But again, even in the event of a Bolton victory, the Boltons would be weak. I think that Arya Stark comes into play in this scenario. Arya Stark was, in fact, not Arya Stark. She was Jeyne Poole, daughter of Eddard Stark’s steward, Vayon Poole. Here, I think Tywin would take the Littlefinger route. Recall, if you will, that when Eddard discovered that Cersei’s children were not of Robert’s blood, Littlefinger advised Eddard to retain this secret and use it if Joffrey became unruly.
“Then, should Joffrey prove troublesome, we can reveal his little secret and put Lord Renly on the throne.” (AGOT, Eddard XIII)
So, in my mind, I think Tywin would make a remarkable discovery. He would discover that Arya Stark was not who she said she was. She was, in fact, Jeyne Poole. This would be used as a casus belli for Lannister and Tyrell armies to invade the North. More than a casus belli, it would serve to to de-legitimize Roose Bolton’s Wardenship of the North among all of Westeros, but especially among Northern Lords.
Roose Bolton and Ramsay Bolton would meet their fates at the end of a Lannister or Tyrell sword in this telling. In Roose’s place, I think Tywin would place one of Kevan’s sons who would marry Sansa Stark (if she were found) or the true Arya Stark. In effect, Roose Bolton dies at the hands of Stannis or the Lannisters, and the Lannisters take hold in the North.
3. The Tyrells
Simple: if Tywin survives, Tommen marries Margaery without incident. There would be no back and forth between the Tyrells and Cersei Lannister as seen in A Feast for Crows. Tywin would keep Cersei’s ambitions and insanity in check. There would be no arrest of Margaery for adultery. Tywin would definitely not send Loras Tyrell to seize Dragonstone. The Tyrell alliance would be maintained.
4. The Dornish and Aegon VI’s Invasion
The death of Oberyn Martell would have been a much more difficult problem to overcome, but I think that Tywin would have been able to maintain Dornish neutrality. The key for this is Myrcella. She was still betrothed to Trystane Martell and still in Sunspear. I believe that Tywin would have demanded a quick marriage between the two. Prince Doran Martell would have probably balked at this as he had his own plan: marry his son Quentyn to Daenerys Targaryen and bring her army and dragons to Westeros. But Doran was cautious and probably too cautious to openly confront Lord Tywin Lannister while he lived.
Aegon’s landing and return would be laughable if Tywin survives. With the Tyrells and Lannisters still united with 100,000 soldiers in the Crownlands, the Golden Company would be destroyed, Aegon killed.
Wins and Losses: Concluding Thoughts on Tywin Lannister
“Men are such thundering great fools. Even the sort who come along once in a thousand years.” (AFFC, Jaime V)
Tywin Lannister was one of the great men of his age, if not the greatest man of his age. His actions changed Westeros forever and will continue to have ramifications in the upcoming books. As a commander, Tywin Lannister had a middling track record. His leadership showed tactical prowess, but it also displayed strategic ineptitude. Where Tywin shined the most was in his political maneuverings. His Machiavellian policies and plans showed his ability to weave the Lannister name into the fabric of Westeros. His amoral conduct ensured victory for the Lannisters. But it was a victory that will likely be shown to be temporary in the upcoming books. Even Jaime recognized this.
I’ve lost a hand, a father, a son, a sister, and a lover, and soon enough I will lose a brother. And yet they keep telling me House Lannister won this war. (ASOS, Jaime IX)
In the end, Tywin Lannister was flawed. He was flawed in his dealings with his children and in his conduct on the battlefield. But this does not preclude his greatness. But this greatness fed crows across Westeros. Death was Tywin’s true legacy. Untold tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, died as a direct result of Tywin’s actions. In the end, Tywin Lannister needed no monument. The pile of corpses across Westeros stood in mute testimony of the man, Tywin Lannister.
“Here before us lies the greatest man I ever knew. Lord Tywin wore no crown, yet he was all a king should be.” (AFFC, Jaime I)
I hope you’ve enjoyed “Wins and Losses: A Command Analysis of Tywin Lannister”! I’ve thoroughly enjoyed writing this series and reading the many insightful and interesting comments. Thank you! I’m posting a poll below to determine what I should write about next. I’ve received many suggestions as to what to write on next, and I’d love to write about what you all would love to read. The way I see it, I’ll write about the topic which receives the most votes. Thank you again for reading! Cheers!